Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Many Benefits of Calendula Flowers

By Susannah Singer

A native to the Mediterranean area, calendula (Calendula officinalis), is also called Marybud, pot calendula, Gold-Bloom, pot marigold, Garden Marigold, Holligold, Marigold, and Zergul. The plant has a yellow or orange flower.

The name calendula comes from the word calendar because calendula blooms every new moon. The name "marigold" refers to the mother of Jesus. Don't confuse calendula with the marigolds from your garden. Those are probably either African marigold or French marigold, a totally different species.

For those who like the technical facts, calendula contains these medicinal ingredients: calendulin, narcissin, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, lupeol, isoquercitrin, amyrin, rutin, volatile oils and sterols. Polysaccharides with properties that stimulate immunity are also found in the flowers.

Calendula benefits us both inside and outside the body. Internally, calendula helps with GI tract problems. It protects the lining of the intestines and stomach by limiting the effects of the bacteria associated with gastritis, peptic ulcers, and stomach cancer, and by inhibiting the causes of swelling and inflammation. It will thus sooth stomach ulcers and inflammation as well as fight fever, boils, abscesses, and recurrent vomiting.

External uses are related to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities of calendula's orange petals. These two traits have made this flower a popular treatment for a host of bodily infections. Some feel it is as effective in treating ear infections as some leading prescription drugs. Try using calendula tea to wash eyes suffering from chronic conjunctivitis (pink eye). As an ointment, it will both soothe the inflammation and reduce it by attacking the bacteria causing the swelling. It is also effective in treating other inflammations. These include hemorrhoids, vaginal itching caused by menopausal tissue changes, insect bites, diaper rash, acne, burns, scalds, eczema, and sunburn.

By using this herb on infections, healing is more pain-free, better, and faster. Cosmetic creams use calendula to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and hydrate skin. Gargling with calendula water or tea may ease the pain of a sore throat.

In addition, calendula is used to treat capillary engorgement, chronic ulcers, varicose veins, and congestion. Calendula flowers are edible, and may be added to salads cereals, rice, and soups to add flavor and color. The petals can also be dried for use in teas as mentioned above.

Calendula may be purchased or prepared as creams, teas, tinctures, infusions, compresses, and washes. To make calendula tea, simply pour about a cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of calendula flowers and let sit for 15 minutes. Calendula tea may be taken 3 times per day. Calendula tincture, which can be taken with water or tea, can be taken 3 times a day (in doses of 1-2 ml). To make calendula tincture, soak a cup of flowers in .5 quarts of rectified alcohol for 5 to 6 weeks. A tincture dose is 5 to 15 drops. To create a calendula salve for external application, boil 1 oz of dried flowers or leaves with 1 oz lard.

Calendula is a very safe herb but a few cautions are in order. Be especially sure wounds are clean before applying calendula. If you have ragweed allergy, be cautious as some have also experienced allergic reactions to calendula. The alcohol in the calendula tincture will burn the raw tissue of wounds. It would be better to use a different form of the herb.

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